Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach - game review

Date: 2006-03-08 11:04:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Editor's Note: It is difficult to unequivocally evaluate Dungeons & Dragons Online . On the one hand, we play on servers where we meet thousands of other players, on the other hand, we perform quests in several people, in areas designated for the team - so this DDO is not a real morpeg. Comparing DDO with WoW, Everquest or even Guild Wars, the game fares poorly - a 70% rating would be well justified. However, if we treat DDO as an extensive network game, it will turn out to be extremely atmospheric, playable and addictive, boldly approaching the 100% limit. The 85% issued by us should be treated as a compromise, a more detailed description of which can be found in the review below. We cordially invite you to read the text.

This year, several new titles from the increasingly popular massively multiplayer online role playing game genre will debut on the market, as well as some additions to existing games. As it happens, I was personally looking forward to seeing the new D&D based MMO arrive. I don't think that any cRPG lover needs to help decipher this abbreviation. Dungeons & Dragons has been the world's most famous story system since the mid-seventies, absorbing hundreds of thousands of "paper" RPG fans.

Since the "beginning of the world" based on the Dungeons & Dragons system, and previously Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, dozens of excellent cRPG games have been created, and the oldest fans probably still remember such titles as Pool of Radiance, released by Westwood and SSI in 1988, starting the series The Forgotten Realms Epic or one of the most interesting Eye of the Beholder series, which was released a little later by SSI by SSI. Their action took place in the most popular AD&D world - Forgotten Realms - to younger players who are much better known for games such as Baldur's Gate , Icewind Dale or Neverwinter Nights . But not only Forgotten Realms was exploited by cRPG creators. In time, a whole series of games (eight titles in total) were created in the world of Dragonlance. On the basis of the AD&D system and worlds invented for its needs, other games were created, some like Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession or Planescape Torment , placed in very dark and gloomy places - full of vampires and undead world of Ravenloft and probably even darker and full of pain and suffering Planescape .

As I have played most of the above-mentioned titles, from the moment I read the information about creating MMOs based on D&D, I was wondering where the action of the latest work of Turbine Entertainment (known to us so far from another MMO - Asheron's Call) will take place. I was rather not surprised by the information that for Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach the game developers have adapted the newest world of D&D version 3.5 - recently promoted by Wizards of the Coast - Eberron. Two years ago, the first Eberron Campaign Setting textbooks appeared on the market. The history of this world begins shortly after the end of a long, over 100-year-long civil war between five nations on the continent of Khorvaire. However, we will start our adventure on a different continent - Xen'drik, the largest city and port metropolis - Stormreach, covered in the dense jungle.

However, before we take the first steps on the pier while descending the ship, we must create a character that we will play. We have five races to choose from. Four, which I don't really have to present, that is: humans, elves, dwarves and halflings and one of the four new (unfortunately only one, but the creators promise to add more in the future) occurring in the world of Eberron - warforged - a representative of the race of intelligent golems created for the needs of an earlier war. Each of them can take up one of the nine available professions. We already know such as: paladin, cleric, mage or bard from previous games created on the basis of the D&D system - unfortunately, they lack both the good old druid and the new - artificer - an inventor specializing in creating and using magical items.

Next, we choose the appearance of our hero, starting with the hairstyle and color of the hair and skin, and ending with accessories that beautify (or not) our face. It is a pity, however, that apart from the face, we can not change anything else in the appearance of the character (apparently the image of a corpulent elf would offend the lovers of this breed ;-P). At the next stage, if we do not decide to leave the rest of the coefficients, skills and spells as intended by the creators, we have the opportunity to work on them. Traditionally, each character is characterized by six major factors ranging from 8 to 18 points, with some race-related modifications, and a large number of traits and abilities that are influenced by both race and class. I will not elaborate on them, after all, most cRPG fans have more or less idea about it.

After disembarking and completing a short tutorial, introducing us to the game world, we notice a few fundamental differences between other cRPGs that used the principles of D&D and Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach . First of all, all characters that use magic have mana and use it up when casting spells! This is of course completely against the rules of D&D, but it still works ;-). After all, the rules of D&D were created for the needs of a turn-based game, where the team has the opportunity to rest at any time (of course, on relatively safe terrain), and here everything happens in real time. However, if it is not too easy, this mana is not too much, and we can regenerate its resource only in taverns, or by resting at special altars, where we also regain health points - unfortunately, they only work once and are available as often as breweries in the desert. The second element not found in any D&D tutorial are Boost Points. Due to the fact that it is not easy to advance here to the next level and it takes much longer than in other MMO games, the experience bar has been divided into five parts. For each consecutive 20% of experience, we get the opportunity to add a new boost (there is room for four in total), significantly increasing some of our coefficients or skills.

DDO is perhaps the weirdest MMO game I've come across so far. In fact, it's even hard to tell if it's really an MMO game ;-). It is most similar to the well-known Guild Wars , but at the same time completely different from it (fortunately ;-D). If someone is a PvP fighter or would like to take up any craft - forget about it. Nothing like that in the DDO is foreseen. As in GW, we will meet other players only in the city, where we visit shops, teachers and taverns, where we restore health and mana, and we can get new tasks and arrange a joint trip. Our team can consist of a maximum of six people, and in special cases up to twelve. After gathering the team (it is unlikely that you can complete most of the orders yourself, especially at higher levels), we dive into the next locations prepared for exploration. Most of them are various types of undergrounds, cellars and caves, so only rarely (and with great reluctance :-P) we crawl to the surface to breathe fresh air. A paradise for lovers of dungeon penetration ;-). These locations have been perfectly implemented - they are full of traps and various surprises. Finally, the rogue character, not very useful in other MMO games, was appreciated. Here, without him, the game becomes insurmountable at times. He leads our team, discovering more traps and disarming them, as well as opens closed chests, the contents of which are shared equally (unless fate decides otherwise and gives one a sword +2 and the other a club, which he cannot use anyway ) avoiding the stress experienced by players such as World of Warcraft ;-).

The atmosphere that prevails during the game is really great. Before more important events, we hear the voice of the Game Master who introduces us to the script, and to make it more interesting, some of these texts are read by one of the creators of the D&D system, the legendary Gary Gygax :-). In addition, there is quite good music in the background, and the sounds made by weapons and enemies during the fight greatly increase our adrenaline level. I will focus on the graphics, which are simply amazing (of course, provided you have very good equipment). At times, while wandering through the rocky corridors full of glowing mushrooms with stalactites hanging from the ceilings, I felt like in Salvatore's novels and just waited for Drizzt Do'Urden to emerge from behind some rocky bend, although it's not that fairy tale after all ;-P. Unlike other MMORPG games, we don't get points for killing enemies. We have a certain amount of experience at the beginning that we get for completing the task, and we can only increase it by completing side quests, disarming traps, finding hidden doors and passages, or finally for being aggressive and destroying everything that can be destroyed.

We also get a bonus for completing the task for the first time (it can be repeated many times, but each time the experience will decrease by 10%, until finally there is a moment that we will not get any points for it), and try to do it on two subsequent levels difficulties, for which there is an additional bonus, but unfortunately only once. In addition to experience points, each client has a reward for us, which we can choose from a group of several items, so that even if there is nothing useful for us, there will always be something worth a good sum and that can be sold profitably. Money is very important (just like in life ;-P), because the costs of repairing broken equipment are colossal, and the prices of a new one are astronomical.

When it comes to the interface, map, book of tasks or inventory, my feelings are mixed ... In fact, everything is quite clear, we can put up to ten stripes with shortcuts to skills and spells on the screen and rearrange them according to our wishes, but it could be a little nicer, especially as the rest of the game definitely stands out in terms of graphics. Especially the inventory window with small pictures, where little can be seen, I liked little (I immediately remembered M&M IX, brrrrr). It is true that we can see everything in it enlarged, but every time I open this unfortunate backpack, it rejects me (I know, I'm picking on - an esthete has found himself in seven pains ;-P).

In the upper right corner there are icons of spells (both positive and negative) that our character is subject to at the moment (with their duration), which is a very cool thing. The map is quite readable, but in locations where the levels overlap, it is hard to know if we are seeing the level we are on or the one we have already been to. I do not have any major comments about the book of tasks, although due to the large number of orders it is sometimes difficult to understand them, but because we can repeat each task at any time, unfortunately they must all be included in it.

The matter of our character's death was treated very leniently. Death only costs us a small number of experience points and we can respawn in this tavern where we recently talked to the priest who resided there (interesting that all clerics work in pubs, are they followers of Bacchus?). The second way, however, provided that we are playing in a team, is to take the soul stone left over from our mortal shell to the nearest altar, where we will come back to life. Resurrection also has a cleric, but first of all, we must have him in our team, and secondly, he must advance to the ninth level of experience, because only then will he have such a spell.

I have to warn potential buyers - if you are fans of fighting with other players, would like to do some craft, you enjoy open spaces, you are claustrophobic and you are afraid of spiders or the dark, then this game is not for you :-P. However, I invite all lovers of the D&D system, who like combing dark dungeons and caves in the company of other fans of this type of fun. Those who identify with cRPG games and played normal RPGs will surely feel at home here. I just have some concerns about how long we will have to wait for Turbine Entertainment to expand the game. The company is currently working on a second MMO - The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, and we all know what it sometimes happens to be when you hold two magpies by the tail (hopefully I won't be a bad prophet). For today, the game offers character development up to the tenth level of experience, which, when played quietly for several hours a day, provides entertainment, say for a month or two. I know that there are geeks who will achieve this limit in a week, but in my humble opinion such a game is rather pointless. I am also concerned about the low number of locations available at higher levels, but I hope the producers will provide us with new entertainment soon, otherwise Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach may be forgotten, which I think would be a pity.

Adam "Adamus" Bilczewski